Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

no more empty plates

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, which is pretty sad since some of you were hanging out regularly.  To be honest, I originally fell away from it because I was tired and uninspired.  But lately, it’s because I’ve been so busy searching for new inspiration in life!  (Taking eighteen hours of university courses has also been keeping me a tad busy.)  If I’m being honest, I’ve also thought, “is anyone even reading this?? who cares?!”  I mean, the entire reason I set this space up was in hopes of sharing a love for food and life and beautiful things with a group of people that share a love for these things, as well.  Thanks to you few lovely folks who have prodded me to continue; I’ve decided to return! 

Even though I have not been blogging, I’ve definitely been eating.  Lots and lots of roasted chickens and pork butts and other bizarre things like lamb tongue pate.  I’ve also picked up some new knife skills and cooked a dinner with Ron Eyester and Hector Santiago.  I’ve made some new friends, thought seriously about starting an “underground” supper club, dreamed of wood-fired ovens and summer nights filled with good food and fresh air and twinkly lights.  I’ve cooked a few Tuscan porchetta roasts and spent a few weeks cooking for precious and wonderful kids that don’t care so much for lemon or garlic or vegetables or anything that is good and flavorful in my book (you want whhatt??  toast with ketchup??!!).  I’m in the middle of a Lenten fast, and I have spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer, wondering what the heck I am doing with my life.  (I think I may want to do lots of food stuff, like start a farmer’s market with community garden sourced veggies in a poorer side of town, and maybe I want to do some market tours and very informal cooking classes.  I’d also like to be a pastor/theologian/counselor that lives incarnationally half the year and spends the other half traveling the world learning about people and loving them in their brokenness, trying to be an ambassador of God’s great redemptive work.  I do really want to travel the world.  The entire world.  Lots.  I’d like to study art and culture and food and anthropology and how it all works together – how we are at once so wonderfully different but beautifully similar.  All of this travel will help me with my new role as curator or something or other at some museum, where I will study old and beautiful things and hope to educate a community about centuries of artistic expression.   While I’m doing some work on myself, I want to meet others who are feeling overwhelemed or outcast or forgotten, and I want to encourage them that they are absolutely cherished and adored.  I’d like to work with a few refugees and people that are trying to make it here, I want to help them transition to this country, cook for them and learn a few things for myself!  And of course, I want to write about it all.  In the midst of all this, I want to eat.  Everything.  See?  Very busy.)

But I have come back around to this little space in hopes that you friends of mine will join back in and share with me – what you’re cooking and eating and dreaming of and being inspired by.  I’m so happy if you can come to my blog and receive something – but please do speak up!  Let’s share with one another.  As for me, no more empty plates!

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I was recently reading an article in Saveur’s December issue.  The article is entitled, “Personal Space: an editor’s kitchen reflects a lifetime.”  The writing is about Judith Jones (an accomplished cookbook editor who published Julia Child’s first cookbook), her kitchen and recent publications, and about how one’s kitchen can be a telling reflection of the style and personality of the cook who spends time there.  This was a thoughtful article, but what struck me the most were the pictures of Judith in her little kitchen and apartment, as well as the mention of her latest cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

Judith talks lovingly about the design of her kitchen and living space, thoughtfully created and conceived by her and her beloved husband.  Every detail held special meaning to them, even down to the accidental garde-manger they created during renovation, reminding them nostalgically of the years they lived in Paris.  The pictures in the magazine spread show a tiny and elegant woman.  She stands in her kitchen, carefully cutting chicken; she sits alone in her cherished dining space, her beautifully lined face illuminated by candle light, gourmet meal before her (silver platter included) and a glass of red wine in hand.  Her smile conveys the anticipation of sharing her personal space with such an audience and a youthful giddiness radiates through her expression.  So much like me, she is surrounded by books in every room.  As I continue to read, I think, “Where is this husband of hers?”  My eyes read ahead to the title of her cookbook and I realized with sadness that he, of course, had passed away in 1996. 

I know that the author probably intended for me to be impressed with Judith’s quaint and thoughtful kitchen, to consider what message that my own kitchen may send to its guests, but instead I was instantly struck with the sadness of Judith’s solitude at her dinner table.   My mind wandered through a multitude of memories that are filled with laughter, love, memorable meals and even more memorable people.  I have shared countless days and evenings eating the best meals of my life with people that I love indescribably.  I pictured Judith’s life similar to my own, filled with these same common experiences.  Just like she and her husband lovingly created their perfect environment, so have Jon and I spent time sharing our dreams and hopes with one another.  Perhaps her kitchen and her home itself remain unchanged and are host to many lively dinners with friends, but some things in her life have definitely changed.  The realization that everyone will not always sit at the table and stand in my kitchen hit me with immediate force; it literally brought me to tears.  I cannot imagine not sharing my kitchen, my cooking, the experience of eating, the joy of a lazy evening, with the people that are dear to me.  Not one single person could go missing without drastically altering the fabric of my life; especially my husband – my one true love.  To me, the table is such a sacramental place.  How enormously blessed am I that I don’t have to sit at it alone? 

One of the most memorable (albeit simple) moments of my life was a time when Jon and I had just finished a delightful, weeknight meal; our home smelled delicious, candles were lit, music drifted through the house, my belly was full, and I was sitting next to the man I feel honored to share life with.  I specifically remember that my feet were stretched out and resting on the empty chair that sits across from me at our table, glass in hand, mind at rest.    I was struck, at that moment, with the sheer joy of being exactly where I was.  (A very rare moment for me and my chaotic mind!)

Since reading about Judith, I have considered in depth that these meals and experiences are even more of a treasure than I realized.  Of course they are some of the best times of my life, but also ones that are not always guaranteed.  I’ve experienced the truth of this in the painful knowledge that I will never eat another meal at 421 South Euclid Street, surrounded by my Grandma and Grandpa in what was one of my favorite kitchens.  I will never be able to pick another avocado or lemon out of their backyard.  Reading about Judith and her kitchen has caused me to realize the fleeting nature of our lives with a more poignant immediacy. 

That being said, I would like to thank everyone who shares these times with me, everyone who allows me to cook for them, everyone who has fed me well, everyone that sits around the table with me and hangs out in my kitchen, everyone that has shed a tear with me across the table, everyone that has squealed with delight over the perfect bite, everyone that has poured me a drink and danced with me while we cooked, everyone that has allowed me to gracefully unbutton my pants due to an overstuffed belly, everyone that has shared their dreams and listened to mine as we rested from our dining.  These are the best times and you all are a gift and a blessing to me, a beautiful part of my life that I cherish and appreciate.  And even though I am nearly one hundred percent certain that she will never see this, I would also like to thank Judith.  She’s helped me to think about how blessed we are to share these times with one another.  I hope she really has found pleasure in cooking for one, and that her kitchen is still crowded at times with friends and loved ones that fill her heart with joy.  And most of all, I am so thankful for Jon, who shares the table with me night after night and graciously receives my successes and failures in the kitchen.  While my love of food has been with me since childhood, he was part and parcel to the beginning of my culinary exploration in the kitchen.  I hope I never have to sit at the table without him. 

P.S.  And thanks to Becky  – who conspires with me about a full life and continues to encourage me to blog!

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grandmas wordsMy Grandma Cecil had a habit of writing her thoughts down on little pieces of paper.  These little paper gems were tucked away all over her house; in drawers, inside of books, in glass dishes, posted on the giant bulletin board that occupied one of her kitchen walls.  Now that she is gone, and now that I am a grown woman with a lot of questions for her, I cherish each of the few little scraps that I have salvaged as insight into her thoughts, her hopes, her affirmations, her struggles, her wisdom, her encouragement.   I am so thankful for the things that she taught me as a young girl, but these little notes must suffice as answers to my grown up questions.  These notes must suffice as the means to understand who she was, woman to woman.   

Perhaps I also assign great value to these little notes because I am a note taker myself.  I know the weight of the good intentions, the proclaimed mantras, the reminders jotted down on small pieces of paper.  Little notes and index cards abound in my house in all of the same places; between the pages of books, posted to the fridge, in pockets of pants, purses and notebooks.  These little notes are my best attempt at bringing some order out of the chaos of my brain. 

About six months ago I came across the thoughts that I frantically scribbled on a flight from Germany to Los Angeles.  I was contemplating some of the biggest decisions of my life; breaking off an engagement, moving away from my family, free education and apartment by the beach in California, pursuing a very intriguing man that I had just met in Israel… lots of things to think about.  I knew that these could be the absolute best or absolute worst decisions of my life.  For whatever reason, Psalm chapter one forty three, verses five through twelve were my prayer.  Each line was a cry for wisdom – each verse had specific meaning to me personally.  I’ve since broken off that engagement, moved from California and married that intriguing man, and my life is the most beautiful it has ever been.  I have revisited that passage of scripture many, many times.  I know it by heart.  It is my personal liturgy when I am seeking wisdom, comfort or council.

So you can imagine my delight and amazement when I opened the pages of a book and out fell a little card with my Grandma’s distinctive script, recording the very same verse that carries so much meaning and significance to me.  I smiled all the way down to my bones. 


I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.  I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.  Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails.  Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down in the pit.  Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.  Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good spirit lead me on level ground.  For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.  In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.  Psalm 143:5-12

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